Living in British Columbia provides many stark examples of the impacts of climate change. Impacts ranging from the retreat of glaciers throughout the Coast Mountains to the devastating impact of the pine beetle in huge swaths of our forests speak to an ever-more-urgent need to address climate change.Traditionally, efforts surrounding climate change have taken one of two approaches: adaptation or mitigation.

Adaptation attempts to lessen civilization’s vulnerabilities to currently occurring and future un-preventable climate change.Mitigation attempts to reduce the negative impacts of climate change by reducing production of greenhouse gases.In the past these two focuses have worked in parallel tracts with little overlap between the majority of practitioners.More recently, recognition has begun to emerge of the importance of employing these two strategies in concert.

Dr. Stewart Cohen, Researcher for the Adaptation and Impacts Research Division of Environment Canada and Adjunct Professor at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability (IRES), is leading an effort with fellow IRES professor, John Robinson, to link climate change adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development.

The Land Trust Alliance of BC has recently released their report “Mitigating and Adapting to Climate Change through the Conservation of Nature” authored by Sara J. Wilson and Richard J. Hebda.Sara is a leading Canadian researcher on Ecological Economics, which is an emerging field that values nature’s services. Richard is the Curator of Botany and Earth History Royal BC Museum, and an adjunct associate professor, Biology, Schools of Earth and Ocean Sciences and Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria.The findings of their report state that the immense stores of carbon in existing ecosystems are of great importance for both mitigation and adaptation to climate change, especially compared to the potential of removing atmospheric carbon by planting new forests. Specifically they focus on four points.First that carbon storage in young forests takes a long time, especially in terms of replacing lost carbon. Second that because there is so little time to slow global warming, the priority should be on preventing carbon losses and conserving the carbon stores that exist. Third that by protecting existing ecosystems there will be a wide range of habitat to provide connecting corridors for plant and animal migration as the climate warms. Finally that the protection of intact ecosystems provides resiliency for ecosystems and the communities that depend upon them.

The municipality of Delta, British Columbia has intimately linked climate change adaptation and mitigation in their Climate Change Initiative.The two main goals of their program are: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from municipal buildings, fleet vehicles and operations; and to adapt municipal infrastructure and emergency plans to ensure their community is well prepared for and protected against climate change impacts.

These initiatives highlight the evolving thinking surrounding climate change mitigation and adaptation, and their relationship and importance to each other.We have reached a period when truly successful climate change programs will fully consider, value and address both adaptation and mitigation and when neither adaptation nor mitigation programs considered alone will be as effective as a joint program.